A TRIBUTE TO MAYOR RICHARD HATCHER: AN URBAN CHANGE AGENT

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Richard Gordon Hatcher
BY REV. JESSE L. JACKSON SR.
December 14, 2019
 

Chicago: After Selma in 1965, African Americans came north. Mayor Hatcher was one with the most moral authority with the greatest thirst for change. He and Carl Stokes were elected on the same day but; Stokes’ installation was earlier. The political road traveled by Hatcher was the most challenging.

Dr. King was going to endorse him, but the blacks that were around the white mayor of Gary threatened to embarrass Dr. King and derail Hatcher’s campaign. Dr. King waited until the Sunday before the election to speak on a radio show and said, “If I were in Gary, I would vote for Dick Hatcher.”

While Carl Stokes did a phenomenal job in Cleveland, it was Hatcher’s civil rights passion that was an extension of the Southern movement. He used the platform of Gary to convene leaders from around the country to work on a shared vision.

He sought to do simple things like initiate fairness in Gary. In spite of Mayor Hatcher’s efforts, the white reaction was so strong that they engaged in white flight and left Gary in mass and formed Merryville in an unincorporated area just outside the city limits of Gary.

Ultimately the Gary Convention of 1972, in which I was a major speaker, was the turning point for implementation for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Only Hatcher could have pulled it off. Ten thousands people attended including the most diverse group of Blacks gathered for that political convention. The urban political progress to reconstruction grew out of that convention. People convened who did not know each other; but left there forever bonded.

Hatcher changed the course of our political river. American politics has never been the same since Dick Hatcher began this journey. The two most critical factors in our political advancement were Selma, Alabama and Gary, Indiana.

Take your rest Mayor Hatcher.

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